Original Document
Original Document
"W. Atlee Burpee & Co,"  1915.

From the Journal of The Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, February, 1915.
The man who can look upon the seeds and tell which will grow and which   will not is one of the world's benefactors. Mankind at no time has more than eight months’ provisions ahead. Should all the crops of the   earth fail in a single season, our farmers become possessed of improvidence and fail to keep a stock of seed for the next planting-time civilization would be swept out of existence in less than a year.
In the warehouse of the W. Atlee Burpee Company, at Fifth and Buttonwood Streets, is stored in embryo the sustenance of a large portion of the earth's inhabitants, the latent energy that drives the world's commerce and industries.
Starting with a modest business in 1876, the House of Burpee has grown into the greatest mail-order seed house in the world. Like many other Philadelphia enterprises this establishment is of international importance. Mr. Burpee will tell you that he has built up this great business by advertising, and to a great extent this is so, but back of it all has been the integrity and the enthusiasm of the founder of the House of Burpee. At the seed farms and experimental stations located at Fordhook, Pa., Sunnybrook, N. J., and Floradale, Cal., every man is made to feel that his work is important to the ultimate success of the business. Every one gets some of Mr. Burpee's enthusiasm and the result is a splendidly organized machine — a business that is constantly growing, and growing upon the most solid basis that it is possible to put under any business; namely, confidence in the quality of the products turned out. Burpee's seeds grow; this fact is known the world over, and it is not by any chance that this is brought about.  
Naturally, the Burpee farms could not raise a hundredth part of the seeds the firm sells. Contracts for the growing of seeds are given out two and three years ahead of selling dates. These crops, located in different parts of the world where the finest results are obtainable,  are carefully watched by the Burpee house and reports made of their condition and development. Unless they are fully "Burpee Standard" in quality the entire crop is rejected.  Even after the seeds are delivered in bulk to the Burpee warehouses, thorough tests are made before they are packed for retail and wholesale selling.
  A sample of each lot of seed thus produced is shipped to the Burpee farms and the firm's personal trials made. The crop must be pure, sturdy, full of vitality, true to the strain. Nine times out of ten results confirm the original grower's statement. But if a bad streak does develop, the seed is discarded. 
 By the stock number originally given the seed it can be traced throughout the establishment.
 Mr. Burpee knows all that it is humanly possible for anyone to know about the mystery of the seed from the moment that it is gathered until it is placed in the package and sent to its destination. When a man, it matters not in what part of the world he may be, receives his little consignment of seed, upon which is dependent his next season's crop and his livelihood and that of his family, the name of Burpee on the package inspires him with confidence in a successful crop.
The same thoroughness and completeness of method that is applied in the production of the seed is carried out in their distribution. The different seeds are sealed in paper packets and distributed in racks which bear the name of the variety of seed and its designated number. The orders as they come in are gone over carefully, the proper seed numbers noted, and the clerks then go along the rows of racks and assemble the seeds required. Each order is checked twice, for there must be no mistakes.  The order may come from South Africa, it may have been a month since the customer has written and it may be another month before he receives the seed, and a mistake could not be rectified in time for the planting season. Upward of four thousand orders are received every day, practically all of them containing remittances from twenty-five cents to a hundred dollars or more, and every order, if possible, is filled before the close of business on the day it is received. In the busy seasons it takes over three hundred people working steadily to handle the orders.  
In describing the methods of keeping the record of the seeds, an article appearing in the Florists' Exchange a few years ago included the following description:  The bookkeeping, which term naturally includes the system adopted for the handling of the mail orders as well as for the ledgers which record the heavier items of the business, is conducted on a wonderful system, geared and closely interwoven the one into the other like the works of a first-class watch, so that but a moment is required to ascertain any item in connection with any transaction whatsoever, the detail work being recorded so minutely that it is possible to tell at a glance, for instance, the vitality test  and who grew, say, the Parsley seed purchased by John Smith, of Prescott, Ariz., a month or  a year previous.  
From the sets of books dedicated to stocks on hand may be ascertained at any moment the vitality test, the quantity of a certain stock received from the Burpee farm on which it was raised, or the different growers from whom it was procured, the amount sold, and the quantity remaining on hand, together with the number of packets and subdivisions of ounces, pounds, sacks, etc., into which it has been divided for retail and wholesale trade. And so on throughout the entire system of bookkeeping.     
In days of old, members of the royal families numbered among their court attaches gardeners who devoted all their time to growing such delicacies as were thought fit to grace the king's table, and rare flowers to adorn the royal gardens.  W. Atlee Burpee is the world’s gardener.  Thanks to the energy and the skill of this man, the most luscious fruits and vegetables are brought within the reach of everyone, and many beds of beautiful flowers grace gardens, rich or humble, in practically every quarter of the earth.  The House of Burpee has done much to spread the fame of Philadelphia and Philadelphia enterprise throughout the world.
 Our entire attention is devoted to producing and distributing Seeds,— Seeds only and only Seeds of the Best Quality. We aim to do this one thing well, — consequently do not handle plants, small fruits, nursery stock, nor other kindred lines, — such as fertilizers, implements, and poultry supplies. We shall be pleased to have your order for Seeds and know that we can serve you well! We shall be pleased also to give any advice in our power as to your other horticultural requirements. 
 At the Burpee Buildings we are glad to welcome customers who may have occasion to visit Philadelphia and to extend also an invitation to inspect our Pennsylvania, New Jersey and California Farms during the growing season. There is nothing to conceal in our business, and it is always a pleasure to show everything of interest, both in the city warehouses and on our farms.
 W. Atlee Burpee & Co.

Credit: Burpee (W. Atlee) Company, Forty Years of Burpee Service--Anniversary Supplement (Philadelphia: W. Atlee Burpee & Co., 1915), 55-59.
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